Christian Benteke: Diving into the Liverpool penalty debate ignores the real issues - The Anfield Wrap

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 6, 2016: Liverpool's Christian Benteke is brought down by Crystal Palace's Damien Delaney for an injury time penalty during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

THE controversy around the penalty that was probably a penalty rumbles on. In the latest twist to the story, it has been revealed that assistant referee Scott Ledger — who decided  Damien Delaney *did* foul Christian Benteke — won’t be given a Premier League game this weekend.

Never mind that there are only actually five Premier League games from Saturday to Monday, so his chances were pretty much 50-50 anyway. He’s been at worst “sensationally axed” or at best “taken out of the firing line” depending on your choice of news outlet.

It is the latest stage in an ongoing saga that started with a flung Alan Pardew overcoat, was ramped up by some entertaining post-match comments from the Crystal Palace manager and has had petrol poured on it by shock jocks and Twitter accounts desperate to attach their name to a story by using words like “disgrace” and “embarrassment”.

https://twitter.com/MirrorFootball/status/707269602187812866

I’m genuinely surprised how much talk there has been about a penalty that was probably a penalty, but maybe I shouldn’t be.

Ever since “The Best League in the World” lost all the best players in the world it has tried to find a way to justify the self-titled tag, and it’s decided that it’s in the drama.

In no other league can any team beat any team (probably because every team is average). In no other league does the action go to the final whistle (it probably does). In no other league are passions running so high that we’ll fling a coat away at freezing point. The Premier League matters.

The problem with journalists choosing this penalty for exaggerated hand-wringing is that someone will always pull up a time where you have been less than consistent with your beliefs. The internet remembers, Mr Cross. The internet remembers.

https://twitter.com/Badgerous1/status/706869911696621572

There have been similar problems for Joe Ledley, who accused Benteke of diving. “It’s definitely not a penalty,” he said. “It is nothing. I thought it was a dive.

“If you go to ground there is a chance the referee is going to give it. You cannot blame Damien. On another day that would not have been given.”  And of course someone found footage of Ledley pirouetting around the pitch to win a foul.

https://twitter.com/timbolton1/status/707162878823034880

Everyone ends up looking silly. But maybe it doesn’t matter. The result stays the same and soon there will be something else to get all worked up about. We can mostly ignore it all if we want to. It’s all just noise.

Except I think it probably does matter. Why? Because we are all talking about a penalty that was probably a penalty and we end up ignoring what actually happened in the game. Which is an away team went down to 10 men and then managed to play a home team off the park.

Pardew maybe deep down knows this so tries to talk about the referee, and everyone lets him. Because they are desperate to ramp up the drama of the Premier League.

So Damien Delaney gets to say ridiculous things like: “I can honestly say I didn’t make contact with Benteke today” even though there is a camera pointed at him recording him making contact. And no-one pulls him up about it, because we’re not going to let the fact get in the way of the latest twist in the Premier League soap opera.

I can honestly say I didn’t make contact with benteke today and IF there was slight contact I didnt impede him and certainly didn’t feel there was enough to award a penalty in the 96th min… If a penalty is awarded that late it has to be unequivocal, I waited over an hour to speak with the officials and in fairness to Andre Marriner he said he didn’t think it was a penalty but he trusted his linesman that much he awarded it. With the way the game was ref’d and the physicality of both teams it was unbelievably harsh. With how Wilfred and Yannick were man handled by Liverpool players over the course of the game, which I’ve no problem with, it was a really tough decision to take so late. All I can do is swallow it and hope to put this right. 🔴🔵🔴🔵

A photo posted by Damien Delaney 🚮♻️ (@ddelaney27) on

Soon there is a petition set up by a Crystal Palace fan asking for Liverpool to be docked points and Christian Benteke to be beheaded.

You should be more concerned with your own team, mate — they haven’t won since before Christmas.

He’s demanding “the FA look into the decision”. How about demanding his football team look into why Liverpool looked much fitter despite playing a third of the game with 10 men? Or why his manager can’t get more out of a talented group of players? Or why a defender was rolling around the floor in the penalty area in the first place?

I’m not picking on Palace, their manager or their fans. It’s a Premier League-wide issue.

By focusing too much on the incident we have allowed an excuses to reign.

By immediately switching the narrative to the referee, Alan Pardew can say they lost the game because of a bad decision, instead of the fact that their players didn’t seem to have the energy or belief to go on and try to win it themselves.

It’s a self-preservation tactic to buy time, but it shouldn’t be allowed to pass. We should be cutting through the crap, but instead we are happy to help spread it around.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 6, 2016: Crystal Palace's manager Alan Pardew during the Premier League match against Liverpool at Selhurst Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Managers actually start to believe they are just hard done to and it transmits to players, which can be damaging to a football club.

If you are just being beaten by bad calls and bad luck then what are you meant to do? By absolving Delaney of any responsibility the manager is doing the player and the club he is paid by a disservice. No-one learns any lessons, it’s just a new hard=luck story.

Here is Delaney talking in the cold light of day about recent events: “That’s the best we’ve played for a long time, so you kind of ask yourself: ‘What do we have to do to win a game?’”

Oh I don’t know. Train harder? Get fitter? Play better? Kick the ball in the goal more than the other team?

“I don’t know, maybe someone’s put a spell or something on us.”

A spell! Was it a spell to jump on the floor and slide at a Liverpool striker in injury time, Damien? Maybe you are just doing daft things, mate.

Some might say what a manager says in public and in private are very different, but these don’t seem like footballers who are aware of doing anything wrong.

That’s because it’s in everyone’s interest — the manager, the players and seemingly television — to focus on a referee and his assistant. Talk about an incident instead of a game. Feed the drama and bury the uncomfortable truth.  It’s just another form of cheating isn’t it?